Loyal and very new fans packed into the back room at Schubas Tavern in Chicago Saturday night to see the wordsmith, Astronautalis. Just before the show started I found myself pack up in front, with the rest of the sardines when I overheard a conversation between a young love lady and an older gentleman. The man asked, “Have you seen him before?” and she replied, “No. I’ve never heard of him, but my friend showed me his picture and said he was good.” Personally, “good” isn’t a word I would use to describe Astronautalis in a live show or just listening to his albums. “Brilliant”,”epic”, “anomalous”, and “paradoxical” seem more fitting. If there is one thing that will never grow old, it’s watching this man channel the devil with the precision of a cougar and the voice of a whiskey filled Tom Waits.
When Astronautalis and his band opened with, “The River, The Woods” off the new album, This Is Our Science, out on Fake Four Inc., some attendees were overheard betting on whether they were going to play the entire album straight through. If you’ve never attended an Astronautalis show before there is one thing you need to know, expect the unexpected. The second thing you should know is, this man is a freestyle wizard. On “Thomas Jefferson”, which is not a song about Thomas Jefferson the crowd filled in for the missing featured artists on the track, Sims of Doomtree and Mike Wiebe of Riverboat Gamblers reciting every word. Taking a break to discuss #SPROTS and his fantasy football picks he joking said, “This song is about Rex Grossman and how he made the periodic table.” and performed “Dimitri Mendeleev”.
Astronautalis introduced “Midday Moon” as “This is a dance song about cryogenically freezing someone you love. Now I know we don’t dance ’cause we’re all skinny nerds. This is a dance song, you may not dance, you may not get drunk, you may not make out with someone but promise me, do not cryogenically freeze anyone tonight.” The 18 year olds next to me immediately went into “awkward high school dance position”. Astronautalis and Schubas, assisting in young love blossoming since 2011.
Performing most songs off This Is Our Science the band also took time to play some old favorites. During “Trouble Hunters” Astronautalis jumped off the stage as the crowd formed a circle around him chanting, “Tonight, tonight you know we’re right!” and just before the end where he yells “1,2,3,4,!” the band stops, the crowd yells the numbers in shock. “I know there are a lot of skinny little people in the crowd like me, so I would like if you went ape shit. But don’t go elbowing the cute girl with the cat-eye glasses.” Also stating his stance on #Occupywallstreet and mentioning that he would like everyone to “go and occupy the voting booths in Novmember.” He yelled “1,2,3,4!” and finished the song. During his famous freestyle section he rapped about: “Obesus” (obese Jesus), “Monarch butterflies”, “Eazy-E on roller-skates”, “Escape From New York”, “Oral surgery”, and “Katie taking the LSAT”. He finished the epic show with “The Wordsmith and His Sons”. The This Is Our Science Tour continues through October and through November. Complete listings can be found at Fake Four Inc.